Eleven Experience is an experiential lifestyle travel company that’s ideal for the adventure seeker who has deep pockets— its product and service are not for the budget-conscious in any sense of the term. But the well-heeled traveler will find that the value for cost is delivered and the experiences offered far surpass the touristy scene and vibe that often plagues destination resorts around the world.
We’ve rounded up the company’s offerings in this issue’s Hotel Desk column on page 8, and in this particular onsite review, we’re focusing on the Chalet Pelerin in Le Miroir, in the French Alps. We traveled there this past January for the opening and some high-energy skiing.
Marrying sumptuous accommodations with an unparalleled adventure is what’s at the core of Eleven Experience and the adventure we had in France offers both in spades—your high-brow clientele will relish this vacation.
The experiences that await travelers to this part of the globe are truly unparalleled when it comes to true alpine mountain skiing. The location of the chalet, in the hamlet of Le Miroir near the village of Sainte Foy, one of the most beautiful areas of the Rhone-Alpes region, provides for easy and quick access to five world-class alpine mountains. Additionally, within 10 minutes are three adjacent ski areas—Sainte Foy, La Rosiere, and Les Arcs—while the famous Val d’Isere and Tignes resorts are only 30 minutes away. This doesn’t even consider the unquantifiable backcountry and helicopter-accessed terrain that is also on offer.
And for those not into hardcore snow riding, a French village experience is at their doorstep. They’ll be surrounded with a sense of place, amidst its history, food, wine, and scenery— a genuine local feel.
the “11 is better than 10” experience
Upon arrival after an approximate 2-hour drive from the Geneva airport, through classic and historic French countryside and mountain villages, we were greeted with champagne and delicious appetizers by Katy Kent, the chalet manager and Daniel Fazzina, the chalet’s personal chef. Immediately thereafter we were fitted with skis ideal for the conditions; unique, custom “Wagner” skis, well constructed for the terrain. The skis were graphically designed with a map of the French Alps, including the terrain we would soon be skiing on, by staff member Alan Bernholtz.
Despite having no sleep on the transatlantic journey and a couple of glasses of champagne at lunch, Bernholtz accommodated the wishes of myself and another hardcore skier for an unscheduled run at the nearby Sainte Foy ski area, which would also be the backcountry skiing destination for the next day. This “preview” served to amp our adrenalin and whet our appetites for what was in store in the coming days.
Bernholtz, his unofficial title—self-appointed perhaps—”guide operations director,” likely chosen for its initials, but nevertheless appropriate given his mastery for delivering on all components of a unique, luxurious, adventurous experience, analyzed the group by ski ability and created custom itineraries accordingly.
According to Bernholtz, officially holding the position of general manager/lead guide, “Eleven’s goal is to provide adventure, and first-class comfort, with all needs being anticipated by the chalet and its staff, and focus on delivering memories of a lifetime to the avid alpine skier.” Mission accomplished for this writer!
A former mayor of Crested Butte Colorado, Bernholtz is full of positive energy, knowledge, good humor, and is a master alpine ski guide who directed our expert and advanced ski group of three to six people to the greatest the French and Italian Alps has to offer. He is also very attentive to guests of all skill levels, their needs and desire for adventure, along with an ever-present concern for safety and well-being, which, given the foreign nature of the different ski areas and variable weather and ski conditions, is of maximum importance in these parts.
As for our ski days, well, of course, they were full of adventure:
DAY 1—Sainte Foy, in the foothills of Mont Blanc, unspoiled compared to many mountain villages and ski areas in France, was highlighted by backcountry touring. After slipping on avalanche packs (mandatory), it was up to the peak to get a couple of on-piste warm up runs. Then the real adventure began when we took a short hike up the peak, tipped the boards over the backside of the mountain and “floated” down untouched soft virgin powder. Add to that the jaw-dropping scenery of the French Alps in all directions and one knows they’re in for a special and unforgettable experience.
Another great thing about Sainte Foy is its lack of crowds. Besides being in the backcountry, where we were the only visible people, the front side of the mountain serviced by the lifts was never crowded and no lift lines existed. Definitely a plus for an avid skier. Note to boarders: They may want to avoid the backcountry here as a good deal of traversing can present itself when certain areas flatten out. Our successful first day ended with what seemed like an endless final fantasy type run in the backcountry that took us through phenomenal terrain at the top and through trees near the bottom, right into the streets of residential Le Miroir and a short walk back to the chalet.
Eateries: Lunch was served at Maison, a typical French restaurant on the mountain. For dinner, we dined at Chez Marie, a quaint and authentic French restaurant within walking distance from home base. The food was superb and loaded with calories, however, it’s all balanced by the caloric burn the mountain adventures deliver the next day.
DAY 2- La Rosiere, located in the heart of the French Alps in the upper Tarentaise valley on the French/Italian border. We skied from France into Italy, passing Redoute Ruinee, a border fort built by France in the early 1890s that is now in ruins and whose interior spaces are not accessible to the public, but which is definitely a must-see. The ski tour continues past the fort down across the Italian border for—during our visit—a stop for hot chocolate that was better than any hot chocolate we have ever tasted.
Stunning views of Mont Blanc, the tallest peak in all of Europe (15,782 ft. above sea level), from the top of the ski mountain abound. The ski adventure then crosses the border into La Thuile, a village in the Acosta Valley of northwest Italy. That’s topped off by a ride on the funicular to access the summit on the Italian border and take in excellent views of the famous Matterhorn Mountain near the Swiss-Italian border. Here, clients can opt to ski both piste and off-piste, winding and gliding runs back to France to end up at the base at La Rosiere for fun and unpretentious apres ski with the rest of the group before a scenic sunset ride back to the chalet.
Eateries: Lunch was served at Taverna Coppapan in La Thuile. Among the delicacies was an amazing traditional French raclette (cheese presented on a classic furnace) with plenty of cured meats, vegetables and pasta with wild boar.
DAY 3—For hardcore skiers the option to partake in a helicopter ski experience is irresistible. But it’s all up to the weather—we can assure you, your clients don’t want to be traveling in a chopper in and over steep mountain ranges and landing in faraway off-piste terrain in bad weather. Bright sunshine and perfect skies paved the way for what proved to be both a dramatic and expectation-shattering success. It is the most adrenaline-rushing, heart-pounding, eye-popping experience a skier can achieve. Starting with the landing of the helicopter for “roadside” pick up in the morning (literally, traffic stops along the village road to accommodate the morning heli-pickup) to approaching its doors to board under its roaring rotors and the thrilling lift-off continuing with a “bird-like” flight over indescribable terrain, is only surpassed by landing at incredible locations, watching the chopper disappear into the horizon when you are then abandoned in incomparable silence with your small group and overcome with the serenity and overpowering beauty of time and place.
Once the heart calms after walking around and taking it all in at the summit, the adventure steps to the next level—skiing down untracked powder terrain of variable pitches through areas and scenes that truly make you believe you are on another planet.
The last run off the summit of the last heli-drop provided a run of over 7,000 vertical ft. down to the village center of Sainte Foy for lunch
Eateries: Lunch was at the highly regarded Le Monal restaurant, located in a renovated old country auberge (inn) that has largely resisted the passage of time and, unlike much of the area, was spared by the wartime bombardment of 1940.
The 3-story Chalet Pelerin itself offers the ultimate in delivering French alpine luxury, provided with class and genuine passion by its friendly and knowledgeable staff. It’s rented by the roof per night and sleeps 10 comfortably. Each of its five unique bedrooms (four en-suite and one bunk bed suite), most with spectacular views of the alps, offer very comfortable bedding, luxurious bathrooms appointed with Kiehl’s toiletries, HDTVs, iPod stations, and fast Internet service. Separate storage areas are provided for skis and ski boots, including facilities to air-dry boots and clothing. Full laundry service is also available.
The chalet is equipped with gear and access to all other “toys” and services to meet a snow adventurer and ski aficionado’s dreams. In fact, guests are asked in advance for sizes and the finest quality ski equipment and gear (from head-to-toe) is available upon arrival. Besides having the opportunity to try new equipment, your clients won’t have to deal with traveling with bulky skis or wardrobes.
The Chalet’s personal staff serves French food and wine of the highest of quality. In fact, during our visit the chalet always seemed to fill with the aroma of special dishes being prepared for guests. Meals are served in a group setting at a communal table, adjacent to which is a spacious and comfortable living room area with a beautiful fireplace and windows providing spectacular panoramic views. Additionally, there’s a master bar on the main floor that is fully stocked with top shelf spirits.
The chalet experience cannot help but provide for a kind of bonding experience with not just the group, but with the staff as well, as they encourage and provide the means to surpass any of your requests. Clients will also appreciate the staff’s keen local knowledge of the village of Le Miroir and the surrounding areas.
Tell clients, too, to take advantage of the chalet’s outdoor hot ub with awesome views of the village in the valley and alpine peaks rising steeply above it. There’s also an indoor saltwater resistance pool and two separate saunas for steam and dry heat. Private masseurs are available by appointment at additional charge for in-room massages tailored to one’s relative muscle soreness.
An added touch—and one clients will embrace—is having a professional photographer/videographer mimic one’s activities (yes, photographers on skis) so guests can spend the end of
their adventure viewing professional photos and videos of themselves in action.
Tell clients to go for a couple of days or weeks, but this editor highly recommends they GO…for a lifetime of memories. On a scale of 1-10, this place is definitely an “eleven!”
Rates start at 10,000 Euros ($13,239 at press time), based on a maximum 10-person occupancy, per night. Rate includes pre-arrival concierge services; roundtrip transfer from the airport (Geneva); local transportation throughout stay; accommodations; access to all amenities, including saltwater pool, outdoor hot tub, sauna and steam room; all meals, prepared to guest preferences; all meals outside the chalet (lunch is enjoyed during day activities); all beverages including alcoholic; year-round guided adventures (on/off-piste skiing, mountain biking, mountain climbing, hiking, etc.); all gear (custom Wagner skis, ski boots, helmets, goggles, mountain bikes, etc.); pre-packed backpacks with necessary items including sunscreen, snacks, lip balm and more; passes to all local ski resorts, as applicable; one day of heli-skiing; and one day with a professional photographer (additional charge for ski lessons).
Eleven Experience: elevenexperience.com; firstname.lastname@example.org